In a major reshuffle announcement on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has named his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, as heir.
In a series of royal decrees carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the monarch stripped Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who had been positioned to inherit the throne, from his title as crown prince and from his powerful position as the country's interior minister overseeing security.
Nayef was not believed to have played a significant role in Saudi and Emirati-led efforts to isolate Qatar for its support of Islamist groups and ties with Iran.
The prince had appeared to be slipping from public eye as his nephew, Mohammed bin Salman, embarked on major overseas visits, including a trip to the White House to meet President Donald Trump in March.
That visit to Washington helped lay the foundation for Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia in May, which marked the president's first overseas visit and which was promoted heavily by the kingdom as proof of its weight in the region and wider Muslim world.
Saudi-US relations had cooled under the Obama administration after Washington pursued a nuclear accord with Shiite-ruled Iran that the Sunni-ruled kingdom strongly opposed.
The warm ties forged between Riyadh and Washington under the Trump administration may have helped accelerate Mohammed bin Salman's ascension as crown prince.
The new crown prince was also named deputy prime minister, and maintains his post as minister of defence, reports Saudi Press Agency.
The Saudi monarch, who holds near absolute powers, quickly awarded his son expansive powers to the surprise of many within the royal family who are more senior and more experienced than Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS.
Saudi state television said 31 of 34 royals supported Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointing his son as crown prince.
-- With inputs from Agencies
Image: Saudi King Salman, and Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photograph: Saudi Press Agency/Reuters